“Cargo flights will continue in 2022 as Kam Air and exporters and Afghan pine nuts traders are determined to increase Afghanistan’s exports,” he told Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Centre for Afghanistan Studies at Lanzhou University, according to the report, said China’s restart of the pine nut trade was a boost for the country’s foreign reserves and could help prevent a bigger mess.
Pine nut trees are largely grown in the eastern Laghman, Nangarhar, Kunar, Kapisa, Nuristan, Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces of Afghanistan where thousands of people including women are directly and indirectly engaged in the business.
The “pine nut air transport corridor” was opened in 2018 and brought revenue of $15 million for the locals within four months. Under the corridor, between 3,000 and 5,000 tons of pine nuts were transported to China every year, which has brought tangible benefits to the peoples of both countries and also transformed the air corridor into an important link for bilateral friendly cooperation, Zhao noted.
The annual output of pine nuts in Afghanistan is around 20,000 tons, with an export volume of $800 million. It also creates jobs for more than 100,000 locals. However, with poor transportation infrastructure and years of war, the commercialization of high-quality pine nuts faces great difficulties. Afghanistan historically exported 10,000 tons of pine nuts to China each year, with others heading to countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.
The extent of Afghanistan’s financial crisis was apparent when Javid Ahmad Qaem, the previous government’s ambassador to China, posted his resignation on Twitter.
Qaem revealed in the post that embassy staff had not been paid for months. “We had money in the bank for accommodation and other expenses of the diplomats. We managed day-to-day activities from that. Though, I did not pay them salaries,” he wrote. The former ambassador also said that China “is well-informed”.
The embassy in Beijing remains open although it is unclear when a new ambassador will be installed. There was no immediate comment from Taliban officials in Kabul.
Similar financial problems have been reported at some of Afghanistan’s other 41 embassies around the world. Most diplomats were appointed by the previous government and have remained in their posts.
According to one senior Afghan diplomat, some embassies began telling their envoys in October that they would no longer be able to provide salaries or pay their rents.
An Afghan diplomat based in Europe told US magazine Foreign Policy that many embassies would not be able to survive, with many expected to be closed down after running out of money.